Tracee Chambers is the latest hopeful to throw her hat into the ring for the Ward 5 by-election. She tells me:
“I have owned a home and business in the downtown core for over 25 years and I feel the uniqueness and authenticity of Main Street is very important. As an entrepreneur I realize the importance of growth and change however feel confident that these two worlds can complement each other… I feel that a 7 storey building would be too high for our Historical Main Street.”
This means that six out of the seven declared candidates for Ward 5 say they are against Bob Forrest’s Clock Tower development in the form that is currently before Council.
To build his out-of-place and disfiguring apartment block, Bob Forrest needs a zoning by-law amendment to the existing Historic Downtown Urban Centre (UC-D1) zone which restricts development to three storeys.
Just say no
The Council is under no obligation to give him the permission he needs.
It is plain to all with eyes to see that the development would wreck the old town’s unique character, ambiance and panoramas and set a precedent for others to follow in future.
The Town’s own website reminds us:
“The purpose of declaring an area a heritage conservation district is to conserve and enhance the character of the neighbourhood. A heritage conservation district plan guides physical change over time so that any change contributes to the district's historic character.”
Forrest filed his redevelopment application with the Town in August 2013 - before the slothful Van Bynen got round to enacting the Heritage Conservation District by-law on 21 October 2013. But that by-law simply replicates to the last dot and comma the policy adopted by the Council in 2011.
Forrest, all injured innocence, cries foul. He appeals to the OMB claiming the by-law should not apply to the land he owns. The OMB rules that the future of the Forrest lands will be determined by the Town when it comes to consider Forrest’s rezoning application. Forrest’s appeal can then be resurrected after the Town has made its decision. And that is where things stand. (See note from Town Solicitor below)
Zoning by-laws infinitely flexible
Zoning by-laws are, of course, notoriously flexible and amendments are ten-a-penny. A whole industry has grown up designed to circumvent their intent. People buying property, who place weight and reliance on the Town’s zoning by-laws believing the words mean what they say, are often shocked later on at the ease with which these very same by-laws can be subverted by rapacious developers aided by a compliant council. The whole system is utterly fraudulent and dishonest.
This built-in flexibility allows our smiling janus-faced Mayor to do two mutually contradictory things. He signs the Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District By-law on 21 October 2013 capping any new development at three storeys and then, thirty months later, he tells the ERA newspaper on 11 April 2016 that a seven storey apartment building in the middle of the Heritage Conservation District is a great example of the kind of intensification the historic downtown needs.
Van Bynen knows how to game the system using his old friends "process and procedure" to get the result he wants.
We now know that for our Mayor, “intensification” trumps “conservation” any day.
If Van Bynen succeeds and Forrest gets his zoning by-law amendment, the Historic Downtown Urban Centre (UC-D1) zone and its three storey height cap will not be worth the paper it is written on.
In these circumstances, it is an absolute racing certainty that concerned residents will go to the OMB to defend the Heritage Conservation District against the decision of Van Bynen and his colleagues to ignore their own policy.
Last September 2015, the Town Solicitor reminded councillors of the status of Bob Forrest’s appeal to the OMB:
“In August 2013 a rezoning application was filed to redevelop the lands at 180-194 Main Street. A public meeting was held on February 3, 2014. On October 21, 2013 Council enacted the Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District By-law 2013-51. The lands are located within the Heritage Conservation District. In August 2014 the OMB ordered that By-law 2013-51 save an except for the lands located at 180-194 Main Street shall be deemed to have come into effect on October 21, 2013. A date has not been set for hearing of the appeal until after Council makes a decision regarding the rezoning application for the lands.”